It’s time for an anime that mixes sci-fi with classic samurai characters. This one never seemed to get all that big as I’ve never seen it mentioned at all online but it’s a pretty good show. The action is on point and the story is good although the ending definitely has a massive cliffhanger so some may be wary in jumping in with no season 2 in sight. That said, the ending is really hype for that reason as well. You’ve got a well balanced experience here.
The show starts with Kennosuke fighting off alien invaders in his mecha with the princess but a giant explosion occurs and she seemingly dies/possibly gets whisked away into a portal while he falls back into the planet. 450 years later he is woken up by a girl named Yukina who looks just like the princess that he used to serve and she was able to activate his robot to wake up from its stasis. She is just a normal girl and doesn’t understand what is going on here but neither one has much time to think things through as we find out that the aliens are returning. Their goals are unknown but humanity will need to be ready if they want to survive and that means training up more pilots. Many years have passed so we should have great robots now but will they be enough?
The show’s got a reasonably large cast for a 26 episode show and it covers a whole lot here. While I say that the characters don’t have a chance for downtime initially, they do get that time later on in the series. So we have a lot of fights but also some day to day adventures for some slice of life adventures. The series is very character driven in addition to having the action scenes ready and there is even some romance thrown in here as well with a lot of characters getting involved.
I would say the title is at its best when dealing with the main alien invasion though. One thing that helped to add some more layers here is that there isn’t just one alien race involved. There’s a mysterious man with a mask who claims to be from a different alien race and he actually looks more like an ogre than what the main aliens that Kennosuke claims are the enemies. In fact those look like humans so the main characters have to determine if Kennosuke is actually being honest with them or if he’s hiding something. Naturally any secrets can hurt the morale and unity of the troops so you need to know that sooner than later.
Lets start with the technical elements though. The animation is very sharp for the human scenes. The colors pop out and there is always a lot of movement going on. The robot suits can be a little clunkier but you still get a lot of fun battles which only get more impressive as they start growing wings and using swords. I have yet to see an unimpressive aerial battle with robots and this was no exception. The fights do get good here and I didn’t walk away with any real complaints on the animation. It remains consistent throughout the whole run.
The soundtrack is a little more on the forgettable side. It’s not bad per say but the opening is a little underwhelming and you will have a hard time really remembering any of the tunes in the episodes. I actually looked up the ost while writing this review to check some of them out and some of the tracks are good but they will mostly blend together in the background as opposed to dominating the scene.
Kuromukuro can have a bit of a fanservice issue at times though. Mainly this tends to always occur when Yukina’s classmate Mika shows up. It’s a shame because Mika is easily one of the best characters in the series as a loyal friend always ready to help out and cheer everyone up. So she would have been cool without those scenes and it distracts from her quality moments. There was also an odd massage scene that seemed to be going out of its way to be a bit iffy when they could have just played the scene straight as a good recovery method. Naturally there is no fanservice during the fights so this really just shows up during the downtime so it’s not super frequent but does happen enough to be noticeable.
Now with the aliens running around a common trope is that the government will make the wrong choice and turn on the heroes right? That happens all the time here and for a while you figure maybe this will be the exception but the government looks really awful by the end of the series. It’s unfortunate because they last for quite a while but in the end they basically just decide to self sabotage themselves. The show doesn’t portray this as the ultimate betrayal you would expect it to be and the ending is still rather light as there isn’t much that the teens can do about all of this but most of the adults here lost all my respect by the end. Only certain characters who took a stand and made their choice were exempt. It’s no wonder Earth falls so easily in pretty much every sci-fi story.
Okay back to the story though. So Kennosuke has sworn to protect the princess for his entire life and so he still wants to find her but in the meantime he vows to protect Yukina as well since she looks like the princess. Also, as she woke the robot up, they are now linked as pilot and support for the mech. It can only work at 100% power with two riders and nobody else can connect so in a way their destinies are connected now. Some characters aren’t so thrilled about this but what are you going to do right?
It starts off as more of a monster of the week setup but gradually we meet the main villain cabal and get more of an ongoing story here. For example there is a mysterious lady named Muetta who looks just like the princess but is working for the villains. What’s going on there? Then you have a guy from school who likes Yukina and is super jealous of Kennosuke but is also feeling a huge lack of confidence because Kennosuke is just so much more powerful and talented. This guy can’t hope to beat him in a fight so what else can he do? So starts some of the drama.
In general I would say the romance here isn’t great. There are quite a lot of them going on here like with the classmates even outside of the main romance. The problem is that for a lot of these it’s too soon. Take Kennosuke, he liked the princess and then falls for Yukina who looks just like the highness but is he really liking her then or just seeing the princess in her? The show actually deals with this fully so I’ll give it some props there. The reason why I also give the romance some more credit is it doesn’t go 0-100 and even by the end of the series it’s still ongoing and now years have passed. So they’ve actually had time to develop even if Kennosuke can still be a little iffy about the cosplay pictures.
The romance with Mika and the shy kid Jose was more on the cringe side. I mean that’s his whole thing like when he tried to make an emotional message appear in a video he shot for the class and nobody noticed. I never ended up liking Jose though, he tries really hard but didn’t have a ton of personality by the end. The rest of the slice of life elements could be fun enough though. Perhaps filming a movie dragged on a little bit but playing sports and going on field trips was a nice way to explore the characters more. It was successful enough in that the whole class (The named characters at least) remain memorable even after you have finished the show. You won’t forget any of them.
In terms of balance it would probably be nice if the heroes had more resources though. They seem completely doomed if the villains got serious about fighting them. Keep in mind that it’s Earth against the whole villain empire which is apparently many, many planets strong. The only reason Earth hasn’t been wiped off the planet is because they want some resources and because the villains are too proud to ask for backup. See, there are 5-6 main villains in the cabal and they figure asking for back-up would cause them to lose face…so they just don’t ask. I mean perhaps they would be blown up so it may be a smart move but Earth really gets lucky all the time because they aren’t ready for a huge fight which is made clear every time the villains attack. If Kennosuke wasn’t around they would have gotten eliminated rather quickly.
Now lets jump into the characters. First up we have Kennouke who is a loyal samurai. He doesn’t know much about the modern world so he has the classic fish out of water arc but manages to not be very annoying about it. Considering all the hoops the government has him jump through, he does his best to comply. He’ll still stick with his sense of justice though. The only time he wavers a bit in a bad way is with dealing with Muetta since she looks so much like the princess. He froze up when it counted which was unfortunate but beyond that I wouldn’t say that he made any real mistakes. His fighting abilities are the real deal as well.
He does try to keep Yukina away from danger a lot but aside from the fact that it makes sense in a historical setting since you would usually try to keep women and children away from the battlefield, he also knows that she can’t fight and they’re up against aliens who show no mercy. So it’s totally reasonable on his end but of course the choice is quickly taken out of his hands considering that he can’t even pilot the robot without her. He tries to fight one while on foot but that doesn’t go very well. I tend to like characters that are very honorable and so Kennosuke made for a good lead.
Meanwhile Yukina is a solid heroine. At first the whole thing is a little too much for her and so naturally she wants out but once she sees that this is really happening then she gets on board. Yukina does her best to help out, even fighting when necessary. She may not stand out as much as some of the other characters but her bravery can keep pace with them and I don’t really have any negatives for her. I was also glad that she flat out rejected Ryoto as opposed to keeping him guessing.
Ryoto is the guy who likes Yukina but you know that he’s doomed from the start because he’s not the main guy. Apparently he also used to lightly bully/tease her back in the day based on some of the character dialogue although it was all prior to the series starting. This guy tries his best to get her to notice him but ultimately she just says that’s not going to happen and by the end of the series he has slowly started to accept this. He didn’t have a whole lot of purpose in the series but at least he was never selfish about the whole thing. He didn’t try to sabotage the heroes or do anything petty. He was upset with Kennosuke the whole time of course but that was about it.
Jundai is another one of the classmates who gets a fairly big role. He likes filming everything which is his big gimmick. Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot to him beyond that. He also tries filming Mika a bit when she’s not aware of it which quickly dropped him all the way down. That’s usually not part of his character but one time is all it takes. I already talked about Mika being a fun character so not much more to say about that. She never doubted Yukina or Kennosuke no matter what others said and she helped him get used to modern day life without making a big deal of it all.
Marina is the school counselor but she’s woefully unprepared for virtually every situation in the series. She really wants to be helpful but just has a super tough time with it because she’s too scared to actually talk with people straight on. I wouldn’t say she ever got to be a very great character for me personally. If she was more confident that would have gone a long way.
Then we have Sophie who is a prodigy and is very good at using her mecha even though she is still a student and not yet a professional. She has actual practice with the sword and this translates into her piloting skills. She seems to like Kennosuke initially but gradually gets out of the race as the series goes on. She usually keeps a calm head and is always a reliable ally to have. Since most of the supporting characters didn’t end up being too helpful in the actual fights, it was good to have someone who could really fight here.
Hiromi is a character who could have easily ended up not being very good but the show handled her well. She is Yukina’s mother and also one of the chief scientists. That means she is often put in a position where she has to side with the government and can’t trust Kennosuke all that much. She is also always very busy so Yukina feels like she is neglectful. In some shows this may be the case but this time I actually thought she did a good job of always being there for Yukina. Later on when she is forced to really have to choose between the government and her daughter, she wisely picks Yukina. That was where she solidified herself as one of the better characters here. There comes a time in every character’s life when they have to make a choice and you always want to make sure you make the right one.
Tom and Liu are two of the professionals who lead the defense force. They are quickly rendered moot once Kennosuke shows up but to their defense they are still a tough combination and hold their own against the villains. Tom is the hot heads of the group while Liu tries to hold him back and is definitely the calm member. They make for a good duo but you do feel like their role in the show isn’t huge either way. You could probably cut them out and not much would change.
Takehito is another character who doesn’t appear all that much. He’s Yukina’s father and seemingly died a long time ago in the woods but it’s hard to tell if the aliens got him or something else. As the show goes on we do learn what really happened to him but I can tell you that it’s a little underwhelming. Ultimately I didn’t think his plot ended up being all that engaging. It’s mainly used for world building which is great of course but it tends to be more on the dry side so you’re always waiting to see the main characters again.
The same is true of Zell to a large extent. He’s the mysterious alien from a third party faction and at least he has the whole intrigue on his side. Is he friend or foe? You have to decide how much you actually trust him as the series goes on. Sure, he did end up saving the heroes once or twice but sometimes that’s just a tactic to try and get into their good graces so you can’t afford to let your guard down. In the end i thought he was okay. A bit soft spoken for my tastes though and he tends to fade into the background instead of stealing the scenes that he’s in.
Then we have Sabastian who is Sophie’s butler and you might expect him to have a small role but he ends up doing quite a lot by the end. He can fight and knows how to pilot a robot. He takes his job of protecting Sophie very seriously and you end up being impressed by the commitment that he puts into this. Most butlers would have absolutely faltered before he did. Meanwhile you have Koharu as a nice little character. She’s Yukina’s sister so she’s too young to do much here but helps make Kennosuke feel at home and is generally a nice person.
Then you have Arthur who is the big government general but he looks pretty bad. Mainly my issue with him is the fact that Kennosuke helps out so much and the guy still won’t trust him at all. More specifically, it’s fine if he doesn’t trust him so long as he doesn’t do anything about it, but he handcuffs, arrests, zaps, and ultimately keeps betraying Kennosuke at every turn. This guy is actively working against his planet’s own defenses after a while. A key moment in this is when he sends out the robot army against Kennosuke.
Keep in mind that the planet only has maybe 3-4 active robot fighters at any given time and so each one Kennosuke is forced to damage is just leaving the planet in further ruins. Arthur always just appears as very shortsighted and he just looks awful at the end of the series. The characters probably should have just did a full revolt by the end of it all. With him as the leader they aren’t going far.
Now as for the villains, the most important one is probably Muetta. After all there’s the mystery of her looking like the princess which is a big deal. She’s a fun fighter and can fight in close quarters as well as in her mech. She has some amnesia so she doesn’t remember a whole lot…makes it easy to theorize some things. She added a fun bit of mystery to the series so it was definitely fun to have her around.
Lefil is the leader of the villain cabal but unfortunatley he doesn’t live up to the hype. 90% of his screen time is sitting upon his massive thrown and talking tough but when it comes time to put his money where his mouth is, the guy falls short. He just isn’t able to keep up. Sure he is technically a good fighter but the show really needed to depict him doing a little more to justify his position at the top of the foodchain.
Meanwhile Mirasa gets a big role because of how jealous she is of Muetta. Mirasa wants to be known as the top villain and so she goes around lying and trying to take Muetta down. After a while keeping up the lie of Muetta having died is rather difficult since Muetta is still running around. Mirasa really digs her own grave here and while it’s always fun to have villains in-fighting and creating their own factions, I was rooting for anyone to take her down. Mirasa just felt very petty.
The rest of the villains mostly don’t have big character arcs or anything like that. Imusa and Hedo mostly just blend in with the others but the way Hedo goes out was almost funny so he loses extra points there. Finishing yourself off is almost never the right way to move up the ranks. Fusunani at least had the moment of busting out of jail and taking a lot of names to bump him up the list. That was a very impressive sequence. Finally Yoruba had a flying mecha which was really impressive since that is exactly the kind of suit you want to have to fight the more impressive opponents.
Yeah there were quite a few characters here and it helps to get the feeling across that this is a true war. It’s an alien invasion that the main characters are fighting off and so of course you should have a number of different villains to go up against. Having just one or two just wouldn’t feel right. I would definitely be hyped for a sequel to this someday though. How I see it, they are going to have to introduce a bunch of new characters and weapons for the heroes to stand any chance here.
Without going into details, there is quite the large time skip at the end and considering that Kennosuke was heavily outnumbered I’d assume that logically he’s dead by the enemy’s hands. If we get a sequel I’m sure he will be alive so best bet is they captured him but if somehow he’s winning I won’t be able to buy that. He has trouble just fighting a 2 vs 1 battle, how can he handle hundreds of these guys? The ending doesn’t paint a very hopeful picture for his odds even with Yukina getting ready. At least she can fight pretty well now too but there’s a big gap between fighting very well and conquering historic odds.
Overall, You should have a good time with Kuromukuro. I’d consider it to be a fairly strong Sci-Fi adventure. It gives you a lot of time to really get to know the characters which is something that many shows don’t have time for. The battles are always a lot of fun but it’s also nice to be able to just hang out with the characters. There is plenty of time for this in titles like Naruto and Bleach which is part of why they’re so huge but titles under 30 episodes usually don’t have as much time for it. There’s a good balance here and that’s why I’d say it’s a fundamentally sound show all around. I’d recommend checking it out even if the government will annoy you the whole time.